False Alarm – Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
We’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions and provided answers below.
A false alarm is the activation of an automatic fire alarm system that is caused by reasons other than fire. An alarm is only deemed as false after the Tasmania Fire Service has attended the scene and determined the nature of the alarm. If the cause of the false alarm is within the control of the premise owner, then a false alarm charge may apply.
The Tasmania Fire Service may not charge for a false alarm where it is beyond the control of the premise owner. Examples may include malicious intent, weather, or environmental factors emanating from another locality.
Attendance by Tasmania Fire Service personnel at false alarms has a significant impact on resources. It also limits the capacity to respond to real emergencies.
The false alarm charge is designed to recover a portion of the response cost. It also encourages building owners to be proactive in managing fire alarm systems.
They are empowered to do so under the Fire Service Act 1979: Part 109A False Alarms.
Under the conditions of the Alarm Connection & Monitoring Agreement, the charge for attending false alarms is made against the applicant for the agreement (i.e., the building owner). In the 2022-23 financial year, the false alarm charge is $390. The building owner/occupier is liable for the false alarm charge. The amount Tasmania Fire Service charges does not cover the actual costs incurred attending false alarm activations.
There are several circumstances where the Tasmania Fire Service may not charge for an alarm that is determined to be false. These may include:
- Extreme weather
- Activation caused by smoke, fumes, and heat from a source that is outside of the premise owner’s control.
Other false alarms may be considered non-chargeable on a case-by-case basis.
This is a term referred to as ‘on-billing’, whereby some building/premise owners have a policy about false alarm activation by a third party. The policy may pass the charge onto the tenant, contractor, or a person causing a false alarm.
Ultimately, the building owner/occupier is liable for the false alarm charge. Policies and decisions to ‘on-bill’ is the responsibility of the premise owner/occupier.
The Fire Service Act 1979 (View – Tasmanian Legislation Online) allows for a person to request a waiver of the false alarm charge. This can be done by writing to the Chief Officer about the circumstances resulting in the alarm. A decision will then be made on whether a charge will apply.
Responding Tasmania Fire Service crews are obligated to attend to all alarm activations. A triple zero (000) telephone call to Tasmania Fire Service with information about the activation will assist responding crews. Though it will not prevent them from attending the scene.
Only an attending fire officer, brigade chief, and group officer from Tasmania Fire Service can reset a Fire Indicator Panel once activated.
It is a condition of a premise owner’s alarm connection and monitoring agreement to isolate areas where works are to be undertaken. Only authorised permit holders can isolate zones within a building during maintenance works. FireComm is not capable of remotely isolating the zone. The premise owner may contact FireComm (1800 000 699) to advise of works being carried out. Notification will assist responding crews if an alarm is activated.
Only persons issued with a permit by the Chief Officer of the Tasmania Fire Service may install, maintain, or repair an automatic fire alarm system. This extends to portable type fire protection equipment. Applications and supporting documentation can be found by visiting the Tasmania Fire Service website: Home – Tasmania Fire Service.
There are a vast number of different types of Automatic Fire Alarm Systems, with varying ages. The authorised system would have been assessed against the relevant building code of the time to ensure it met requirements. Over time, it is often the case that the premise’s occupation type may change, or the premise has significant refurbishment. When this occurs, the installed system may no longer be suitable, which can lead to an increase in false alarms.
The Tasmania Fire Service recommends that in these cases the premise owner contact an authorised technician to assess the system. They may then investigate and provide options on ways to better maintain or upgrade the current system. Ensuring that staff induction and training are in line with the current use and layout of a premise, and the fire alarm system that is installed, may further reduce the instances of false alarms.